Al Jazeera confirms plans for English Service - on the www.

The controversial Qatari news channel, Al Jazeera, has confirmed that it will soon be operating in English. The existing channel is to be broadcast with a simultaneous English translation and a stand-alone English service is due to appear on the internet early in the New Year.

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By  David Cass Published  November 25, 2002

Al Jazeera news channel might have suffered further setbacks over the past month through its ban in Kuwait but, as one door closes, another seems to open for the Doha-based operation.

A top executive revealed in the UK press at the beginning of last month that the channel was about to begin broadcasts in English, something that Arabian Business reported back in August. Our contacts at the channel could not explain the delay, but confirmed that a simultaneous translation service of the existing channel is due to start in the “early New Year” with a full English service at about the same time.

This “full English service” should not be confused with the plans for a full English TV channel, which has been under discussion for at least the past year. That is not now likely to happen until the end of 2003 or early 2004 at the earliest, according to Joanne Tucker, who is Managing Editor of 'aljazeera.net in English'. She told us, “This website operation is like a half-way house to a full TV Service. From around February 2003 we will be streaming audio and video, and we will have our own dedicated team of reporters, including correspondents in the field, who will be filing TV-style reports.”

On the corporate decision to go with a web-based service rather than TV, she said, “The Al Jazeera board of directors always planned to have the English web exercise before the TV. The studies (on the TV service) are definitely serious, ongoing and comprehensive but it looks as though it will follow the website after six months to a year.”

It is established fact that a simultaneous translation service and a dedicated website are far less expensive options than jumping into the market with a full TV channel, especially when Jazeera’s considerable advertising potential has always been depressed by “political” advertising. Cost is not, however, the dominating factor in the decision to lead with the website. According to Tucker, “There are millions more people, especially in our target markets of Europe and America, who rely on the ‘net for their news updates than watch satellite TV.”

She is searching the market at present for up to 45 staff. Her requirements range from correspondents, who will be dedicated to the site, to desk writers and webmasters. It is likely, however, that the site will go “live” with around 25 staff.

You can read the full story in the January edition of Arabian Business, published next week.

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